EP word of the week (#98): ferro de engomar

When you’re learning a foreign language, you develop an almost instinctive desire to know words for different objects, especially those you use on your daily life. Have you ever wondered what’s the European Portuguese word for clothes’ iron? If your answer was yes, then your quest (provided you didn’t remember checking it in a dictionary) is over!

In Portugal, our most common word for the iron is [o] ferro de engomar; [o] ferro means iron (the mineral, just like in English) and engomar is the verb, to iron. It’s actually a quite interesting formulation since the verb refers to [a] goma, the starch used in the ironing process to stiffen parts of the fabric. Nowadays that’s not so common anymore (and some irons allow you to go both processes at once), so it’s used only in the sense of ironing.

In Brazil, the most common term is [o] ferro de passar. You’d probably hear this in Portugal too, but since we also say passar a ferro as a synonym of engomar (even more so the former than the latter, I suppose), it would sound a bit redundant ([o] ferro de passar a ferro) – to my ears at least.


By the way, an ironing board is [a] tábua de engomar (or [a] tábua de passar a ferro) and ironed clothes [a] roupa engomada (or [a] roupa passada a ferro). You’re now ready to impress people with your crazy specific vocabulary skills!

See you next Wednesday!

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